Caitlin Sykes

Your Business editor of the NZ Herald

Small business: Crowdfunding - Sean Gilbert, Activate Nutrition

Sean Gilbert used Kickstarter earlier this year to help raise funds for his business creating healthy ready-made meals.

Sean Gilbert, founder of Activate Nutrition.
Sean Gilbert, founder of Activate Nutrition.

Can you tell me about your crowdfunding project?

My products are called Re-Fuel Packs by Activate Nutrition, which are shelf-stable, high-protein meals designed for people involved with labour-intensive jobs, sports, fitness, gym training and crossfit. My crowdfunding project aimed to get funding to get my first two meal recipes through the manufacturing and branding stages.

Why did you choose to try to fund the project through crowdfunding rather than other funding sources? And why Kickstarter, as opposed to other crowdfunding platforms?

I had followed Kickstarter for about a year and decided I would give it a crack. I quite liked the crowdfunding idea of giving a reward for people pledging towards my idea.

With my project being so young and untested in New Zealand, conventional investors did not like the idea of funding a product they could not yet feel and touch.

The bank was willing to throw money at me after we had done a first trial manufacture, however this was not soon enough for where the project was. Crowdfunding the project would have allowed us to get the trial manufacture done and not have to worry about repayments, which could have slowed our progress.

I went with Kickstarter as I believed I could gain my biggest audience with them, as my research showed they had the most page visits over any of the other platforms.

What kind of preparation did you do before launching the project?

Every night after work I researched, reading as many articles as I could, watching crowdfunding videos and looking at projects to get my head around what people like. I pledged in two projects and got a sense of how people would feel about pledging towards my idea. I also talked to as many people as I could who understood crowdfunding and got feedback.

What was the journey for you like while the project was live?

The journey was exciting and I enjoyed every minute of it. Because I was working full time I couldn't deal with any Kickstarter stuff from 8am to 5pm, so I got up at 4am and also stayed up late every day to answer questions, send out updates and get online to promote the project. As I was trying to get more foreign interest in the project, I went with a couple of sites like www.fiverr.com where you can pay peanuts and get the project out in front of hundreds of potential investors. Given I couldn't spend time during the day on social media I believe this slowed some of my progress; I think running a campaign on any crowdfunding site is a full-time job.

Despite your efforts, your project didn't reach its funding goal. Where has that left the project and what have you been doing with your business since?

Yes, funding was unsuccessful but it didn't deter me from moving forward. The project went stagnant for about two months, then I managed to secure a small amount of funding to get the project through to the next stage. We're still moving ahead, but not as quickly as I once thought.

The Kickstarter campaign taught me lots about what still needs to be done on the product, the amount of interest that's out there, and that I was on the right track. I believe at the time of launching that Kiwis did not and still don't completely understand crowdfunding.

What advice would you have for other small business owners looking to undertake a crowdfunding project?

Do your research first. Find out what is trending, what is being viewed most and look hard at a range of crowdfunding sites and what they offer.

Spend money on creating and editing a top-notch video. We used Feijoa Films and it was worth every penny. The video can be used in any future funding projects and leaving it in the hands of professionals frees you up to concentrate on building your pool of potential investors.

Finally, make sure you talk about your project to anyone that will listen and never give up!

Coming up in Small Business: Australia is often the first market small businesses target when going offshore, but it's not always easy to crack. If you've got some war stories to share about your small business crossing the ditch, drop me a note: nzhsmallbusiness@gmail.com.

- NZ Herald

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